I have recently said some things that made me uncomfortable — not in the old sense, where I’d say something and then later cringe, like some crazy shit blurted out when I was drunk.
What I mean is that I had to say something which might upset somebody, or make them uncomfortable. And since, in my (still crazy) head, I am responsible for their feelings, that would mean I made them upset, which in turn means they will be upset at me. And, to follow all this to the Ultimate Fear: They will expose the world to the horrible person I am, and I will die alone, my life without meaning.
Okay, I realize that last bit is pretty extreme, but isn’t that the Ultimate Fear? Don’t all our little fears really connect finally to that one? Otherwise, why worry that somebody might be upset at us?
So my old (and sometimes current) pattern is to tailor my statements so that nobody could ever be upset or uncomfortable. Often this translates as: Don’t speak your truth. It also includes getting really involved with other people’s “stuff.”
In recovery, I have learned that my truth is valid, and that I can express it in such a way that only takes responsibility for myself — not the other person’s reaction. I have also learned to let go of that reaction.
But I don’t always manage that, and this is where the scripts come in.
Now Playing: The Drama In My Head
Here’s how the scripts work out. I tell somebody, for example, that I have decided not to do that thing with them that I said I would, because it no longer works in my schedule or (even scarier) I just decided I am not comfortable doing it. At that point, if I have said this in a loving way, I’m done. Except I’m not.
What I go on and do is write, in my head, a reaction for that other person. Then I imagine them saying or doing that thing, then I add in my reaction to that, their reaction to that, and so on. I actually play out little (or big) arguments in my head, all flowing from me stating my truth. Or maybe I imagine them being really sad, then I react to that. Maybe they are angry, or point out what a fool or ass I am, or who knows what. It’s rarely a positive reaction, I can assure you.
As I play out these scripts in my head, I can feel myself actually getting angry, or sad, or full of regret … in response to something that does not exist outside my head!
It’s pretty amazing, really — and kind of funny, if you can step back and think about it. I am walking down the street, getting pissed off about stuff that I imagine will happen. The fact that I am choosing to create that particular reality — as opposed to a happy or peaceful one — says something about how I feel about these things. I mean, if I was completely cool with speaking my truth and letting others have their reaction, why would I spend time imagining it going badly?
Why would I imagine, then obsess over, negative reactions to me speaking my truth? Certainly some of it is historic: We all have examples in our past where that exact thing happened. In childhood, when adults treat us that way, we accept it as appropriate, and we grow up thinking we’re not supposed to speak our truth, because it’s invalid. That’s my story, anyway.
It’s all fear, of course. I am afraid to speak my truth, afraid that it isn’t valid, so I go into that dark place and hang out there, because it may be unpleasant, but it’s comfortable. I feel reassured in that role; it is, I believe, where I belong.
Draw The Curtain on That Stuff
Today, when I catch myself playing out scripts, I first just say, “Oh, look: there’s a play going on inside my head.” I notice my emotional and physical reaction to it. Then I take a breath, let some of that go, then ask myself a simple question: “Is this the truth, or something I am making up?”
Assuming it’s the latter, I try to recognize that behavior as some old craziness, and even see it as funny. This is where calling a friend in recovery can help: If she has been through it before, but isn’t currently in it now, I can get into her perspective on it, and we can even share a laugh over it. “Man, I’m that kind of crazy, too!”
The other question, of course, is: “What if the other person reacts just as I’ve imagined?” Well, if they do, it’s their business. I don’t have to take it on.
So these scripts can be really agonizing, or they can be instructive, or they can just be funny. It’s entirely up to us.